Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, is known for its Corps of Cadets, for soil samples and fire ant killer, and its legions of “12th man” football fans. But that’s just the beginning. On the campus of over 53,000 graduate and undergraduate students, there are over 600 official clubs and organizations. Among the newest of these is the fellowship know as the “Anglican Aggies.”
“For years,” says junior Joseph Francis, “there has been a need for a biblical and orthodox spiritual home for Anglican students at A&M, who could not find solid Christian teachings and fellowship in local Episcopal churches.”
The idea sprang up among undergraduates from several parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth. “Aggieland” is about 150 miles from home – too far for regular church attendance at home. Nevertheless, a number of the students were already friends thanks to their participation in diocesan summer camp programs, youth gatherings, and the St. Michael’s Youth Conference Southwest.
After organizing their own weekly Bible studies, a core of students contacted Bishop Iker in 2011 to express their desire to have a service of Holy Eucharist on Sundays. The idea was to have one priest visit each month during regular academic terms.
In April 2012, Fr. Alan Horton conducted the first house Eucharist. With the Bishop’s guidance, a rotation of interested priests was established by the following fall, and regular twice a month Masses began to be held as a pastoral ministry to the group.
Anglican Aggies differs from the usual Canterbury House campus ministry, Joseph Francis explains, “although we are supported by clergy, it is completely student-run. We have over a dozen students, and one family from the local community, who are regularly involved in our ministry, representing both the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Reformed Episcopal Church.”
In addition, students from other denominations have started to attend the Aggies’ Bible studies and Eucharists, which are always announced on Facebook and on the Aggies’ Web site.
The Very Rev. Ryan Reed, Dean of St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford, Texas, and an Aggie himself, spent a Sunday in College Station recently, leading the service and going out
for a meal with the flock afterward.
“I love being part of the Anglican Aggies,” he says. “It gives me a glimpse of what it must have been like in the early Church as they gather in homes to ‘continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers.’”
Fr. Randall Foster, who is an instructor and chaplain at St. Vincent’s School, describes his visits as a “real joy.”
“They are a lively and enthusiastic bunch. The group’s present Secretary was one of my finest students at St. Vincent’s School. Several others are old Michaelites from the St. Michael’s Youth Conference Southwest. So yes, these kids do have deep roots in our diocese!”
“I am always amazed at the commitment they have to come out, even to a home off campus, to worship and study the Scriptures. And this year they are making more of an effort to go out to social events and visit other Christian communities together.”
“The Anglican Aggies are the REAL model campus ministry: dedicated to Christ, student-driven, and student-led!”
For sophomore Allison Reimschussel, being part of the Anglican Aggies “has provided me a community I otherwise would not have had. The biggest blessing is being able to have Eucharist with friends every other week.”
“The fellowship I have had with other Anglicans here at Texas A&M has had a profound impact on me,” adds Joseph Francis.
To be sure, one mark of a Christian community is that it changes lives – not just those of the laity, but the clergy, too. Fr. Joel Hampton, rector of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Fort Worth and a former military chaplain, visited the Anglicans in College Station in February 2013.
“I came away from the experience more dedicated to my priestly calling,” says Fr. Hampton, “and more determined not to let various challenges stand in the way of faithfully fulfilling my calling to live out my faith wherever I may be and whatever circumstances I encounter.”